Got Jews?

Get your SKINNY on! It’s Our One-Year Anniversary!


(the pitch)

Team SKINNY is celebrating our one-year anniversary! (Whoo Hoo!) We published our first SKINNY a year ago this week and have been blogging away every week since, offering a summary of the weekly Torah reading and tidbits on how to live a meaningful life! Our goal is to enrich, intrigue, humor, and inspire Jews, non-Jews, Jews-by-choice, wanna-be Jews, and people who just like Jews. THE JEWISH SKINNY started out and continues to be an all-volunteer effort, led by Debbie Findling and Suzanne Felson. (We just outed ourselves!) The SKINNY now has thousands of weekly readers and we couldn’t be more proud! (Although the late nights of writing and editing are killing us! Perhaps we should curtail sipping vodka on the rocks in the wee hours of editing?) Our first SKINNY coincided with Rosh HaShanah (row-sh ha-shah-nah) – the Jewish New Year – but not the weekly Torah reading. Fan-Club SKINNIES know that the annual Torah reading cycle starts and ends with the holiday of Simchat (sim-chat) Torah, which lands a few weeks after Rosh HaShanah, so we haven’t quite finished the Torah reading cycle yet. We’ll SKINNY the Torah’s last chapter in mid-October. Then we’ll be back at it again cuz’ there’s always more to know when it comes to Torah. In the meantime, Team SKINNY is slapping each other’s backs and high fiving our one year anniversary!


(the over think)

In honor of our anniversary, we’re sharing an article that a member of Team SKINNY wrote with her husband a couple of years ago because it succinctly summarizes why we launched THE JEWISH SKINNY. (If you like the article, she’ll take the credit. If you don’t, it was mostly his writing.)
What do Jews and milk have in common? One is a religion, with a spiritual tradition that dates back thousands of years. The other is a beverage, which is produced by cows. But, both Judaism and milk suffer a common problem — declining consumption. The Jewish community has long agonized over how to preserve Jewish identity and heritage among successive generations. The Jewish challenge is not altogether different from the one facing milk. Thirty years ago, the average American drank more than 30 gallons of the white liquid a year. Today, annual milk consumption has dropped to less than 20 gallons a person. This decline is largely attributable to adults. Children continue to drink milk, but at around puberty they start switching to soft drinks, juice, or designer water, and most of them never return to the milk patch. Once weaned, it’s hard to get them back. The same can be said of Jewish consumption. While the majority of Jewish children participate in some form of Jewish education, by the time they reach bat/bar mitzvah age, their involvement decreases dramatically.
Milk producers responded to declining consumption with a spiffy advertising campaign that offers important lessons for the Jewish community. The goal of the “Got Milk?” campaign was to keep teenagers’ straws firmly inside their milk glasses and to bring young adults back to the cookies and milk club. The pitch consisted of two basic messages: milk is cool and milk goes excellently with other things you like to eat.
The “milk is cool” message was reinforced by the ad’s cleverness. Everyone seemed to have a favorite, whether it was the father and baby eyeing one another over a short supply of milk or the cops feeding a suspect a plate of sticky brownies without the benefit of milk to wash them down. And then there were the ubiquitous pictures of celebrities, particularly athletes, enjoying their daily intake of the white ambrosia, while sporting milky white mustaches. Long gone are the days when milk was simply a way to make young bodies grow stronger.
The milk industry’s second message, that the white beverage goes great with all the other things we like to eat, was akin to the nerdy kid hanging out with the hip crowd. Chocolate-chip cookies, cupcakes, and peanut butter sandwiches were all coupled with milk in an effort to make them inseparable from one another. Eat a brownie; quench your thirst with milk. Peanut-butter stuck on your palate; down some refreshing milk. In addition to making milk cool through its companions, this message helped counteract the number one reason adults stop drinking milk – it’s fattening. After all, if you’re chewing a couple hundred calorie chocolate morsel, how much more fat is milk going to add, particularly when compared to the enjoyment you’ll get out of the snack treat?
The Jewish community’s recent focus on its own declining consumption was instigated by a national population study that portrayed a disintegrating American-Jewish community marked by high intermarriage rates and decreasing levels of Jewish education and participation. In response, Jewish institutions began investing heavily in programs offering snappy Jewish activities for young adults. Although many of these initiatives have been successful, they haven’t been able to break out beyond a core group of mostly already committed and engaged young Jews.
What’s more, and despite sometimes vociferous claims to the contrary, the Jewish community erects multiple barriers to entering its ancient walls. It’d be like the milk producers advertising the glories of milk and then keeping a padlock on the refrigerated section of local grocery stores. Take, for example, the very terms used to define those who are Jewishly connected from those who are not. The dues-paying insiders are referred to as “affiliated”, whereas those on the outside are “unaffiliated”—meaning, you’re either a member of the club or not…defined by some unknown hierarchy.
The challenge for today’s Jewish community is how to disseminate Jewish values amidst contemporary cultural forces and radically different priorities. The health club industry has responded auspiciously to this challenge. Long gone are the days when health clubs require year-long membership commitments. Instead, most offer options like contract-free daily and monthly use rates. And, although places like nail salons and hair-stylists never required membership dues, they too have responded to the commitment-phobic-spontaneous-zeitgeist by placing placards in their storefront windows that read: “Drop-Ins Welcome” and “No-Appointment Necessary.” And, in today’s handheld mobile device world, there’s an app to satiate any form of instant gratification. The Jewish community could learn much from these innovations.
Remember the Got Milk? campaign’s two messages: milk is cool and milk goes excellently with the other things you like to eat. Until being Jewish is easily accessible, downright cool, and companionable, the Jewish community will continue to lose many of us from the younger generation. The good news is that Judaism is already cool and a great companion. Our approaches and slogans just need to be repackaged. Milk’s old campaign, “building stronger bodies,” was replaced by one that is more appealing. Similarly, Judaism’s old campaign, a form of “building stronger institutional affiliation”, which featured an unbroken lineage from our biblical forefathers and an obligation to remembering ghosts of the Holocaust, needs be redesigned through a new lens. After all, milk is still just milk. It just seems cooler.
That’s what the SKINNY’s all about!


(to be in-the-know)

If you want another kind of milk…early autumn is a great time of year to look at the Milky Way in the evening sky. There’s even a blessing we recite when we see something awe-inspiring in nature or in the world:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, Oseh Ma’aseh Beresheit.
Blessed are You, God, our God, protector of the universe, who fulfills the act of creation.
Team SKINNY says: “Amen”.


(bookmark. reflect. share)

Now back to the Torah reading:  Seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 mitzvot (meets-vote) – commandments – are detailed this week. (Read this SKINNY, if you’re 613 forgetful.) The Torah reading is called Ki Teitzei (key tayt-ts-aye), which means: If you go because it starts with the sentence, “If you go out to war with your enemies, God will be with you.” But, the words: If you go aren’t just about going to war. They’re also a metaphor for the entire Torah because Moses gave our peeps instructions for how to act ethically if (when) we go out in the world.


(to chew on)

Here are some of Team SKINNY’s favorite mitzvot from this week’s Torah reading that tell us how to act and what to do when we go out in the world:
LOST & FOUND: If you see your neighbor’s ox, sheep or donkey straying from the field, don’t ignore it. You should return the animal to your neighbor. But, if you don’t know who the animal belongs to, bring it to your house for safekeeping. This means: If you find something that someone lost, you’re supposed to try really hard to find its owner. (That’s what Nextdoor is for….)
CHICKEN & EGG: (Vegetarian SKINNIES can skip this section.) If you take eggs from a nest or chicken coop to eat, you must first send away the mother bird so she won’t see you taking her eggs. This means: Have compassion for animals (the ones you eat and the ones you don’t).
BUILD A FENCE: (It’s not the kind you’re thinking of….) If you build a new house, you have to put a fence on the roof to ensure that no one will fall off and get hurt. (The same can be said for your swimming pool.) This means: Take precautions to ensure you don’t do anything to make others fall or fail - literally and figuratively.
LUNCH BREAK: If you employ someone in your field, you must let them eat the produce they collect and you must pay their wages on the same day they worked. This means: Treat your employees with respect.
SLAVE TRADE: If an escaped slave seeks refuge in your home, you must provide them with protection. This means: Fight for justice.
NAPA DREAMING: When you harvest your vineyard, you must leave any olives or grapes that fall to the ground for orphans and widows. This means: Give to charity and care for poor and destitute people in your community.

WEIGHT WATCHERS: You must not have different weights and measures. This means: Be honest in your business practices.
Remember Amalek (Ah-mah-lek) – the evil nation that attacked our peeps after they escaped from slavery in Egypt – and work to erase its memory. (Read this SKINNY, if you already forgot Amalek and…FYI, in the Torah, Amalek is also a metaphor for all bad guys.) This means: Don’t forget the bad things in life, but don’t dwell on them either.



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The Jewish Skinny · 880 Harrison Street Suite 301 · San Francisco, CA 94107 · USA

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